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Beginners Guide to Telescope Observing

Now that you have your telescope, you can begin the fun and observe away! There are a few things you should look out for and remember before you do so. Please read the below tips before you get started so you can reach the optimal use for your device!

Tip #1 – Observe Away from Buildings

When observing through a telescope, it is recommended to do so away from buildings because street objects such as buildings will absorb heat during the day and release them at night. This heat release will radiate heat back into the sky and will create air currents that will lower image quality in your telescope. It is suggested to observe in open locations that do not have objects that absorb heat. Rural places are best to observe the nights’ sky without any light pollution getting in the way of the images you see. You will have clearer and brighter images the less light there is surrounding you.

Tip #2 – Observing Through An Open Window

Just like observing near buildings, doing so through an open window is not a great idea because of the difference in air temperature between your house and the air outside. This will cause an air current when you open your window, since air travels from warmer temperature to cooler temperature region creating distorted images.

Tip #3 – Observing Through a Closed Window

If you want to observe from the comfort of your own home and not want to step outside of it, your best option is to observe through a closed window, especially during cold weathers. You should know that since you are observing through the window, your window glass would be acting as a lens for your telescope. Of course, you won’t have the same image quality as you would outside, because the fact that the window is acting as a lens and your optic is only as good as its weakest ‘lens’. Therefore, to get the best image possible without having to lack too much in image quality, you should point your instrument straight through the window rather than at an angle.

Tip #4 – Observing on a Deck

Just like tip #1, observing from a deck is also not great because of all the buildings, streets lights and objects that will be causing heat waves and light pollution. Also, since you are on a deck, every step you or anyone else takes will cause an instant vibration in the eyepiece of your instrument. The image will get distorted. It is recommended to use your instrument on the ground to gain best image quality.

Tip #5 – Eye Adjustment to Light

The human eye will need at least a half-hour of uninterrupted darkness for the pupils to adapt to the situation and open to their fullest. Just like anytime you go from a bright light area to a dark area, you need time to properly see again. Also, any exposure to bright light will cause your eyes to adapt to bright light again. That is why it is recommended that when you want to see the controls on your telescope, read a star map and look for something in your bag, you should cover your flashlight lens with layers of red. Whether its red plastic, or layers of red nail polish, it will help lessen the effect on dark-adapted eyes. This means you won’t need to wait too long after properly observe through the telescope after reading the star map.

Tip #6 – Observe with Averted Vision

This is a term that refers to the way you use your eyes when looking into the sky. Rather than staring directly at the object, try and view it from the side of your eye. This is where your eye is more sensitive to light and can be helpful when viewing difficult to see objects.

Tip #7 – Align the Finder Scope

This is an important thing to do before you use your telescope. The finder scope is the small telescope on top of the main one that helps you center objects. This initial adjustment will be much easier for you to do during the day than the night, just because it will be too dark for you to properly do then. You should make sure that the finder scope is properly aligned.

Tip #8 – Use Lowest Power Eyepiece First

When beginning to observe, a lower powered eyepiece is easier to use. You will be able to find objects at low power because you will find them to be brighter and sharper images. Please note that this is referring to the eyepiece marked with the largest number.

Tip #9 – Understanding the Magnification

Magnification is essential to your observing and keeping it at the proper level will make your viewing either great or horrible! A problem most beginners succumb to is having too much magnification. This makes your images blurry, dark and you won’t be getting the image details you were hoping for. This is why it is important to use the proper magnification to get the best image quality you can. As soon as you see the images begin to lose detail, know that the magnification is too high. You can use the Barlow with a low magnification eyepiece. But you must be careful when you use it with a high magnification eyepiece; it can become too much magnification for your telescope, giving distorted images. You should also keep in mind that magnification plays a role in the amount of sky you can see through your eyepiece. The lower the magnification the more you will be able to see in comparison to a high magnification telescope eyepiece.

Tip #10 – Take it One Step At A Time

When you’re a beginner, you may get overly excited to see everything! You should take it one step at a time to get properly acquainted with your instrument and the sky. It takes time and practice to know how to use the instrument, how to read a star map or even know the best times to star gaze. Start easy by viewing objects that are easy to find like the moon or bright planets. Once you feel more situated and confident then you can start searching for those harder to find objects in the sky!

Tip #11 – Use Alignment Stars

Many newbies use computerized telescopes, which can help in many aspects of stargazing. You can use the alignment stars to be able to see other stars. Depending on your instrument you will have to do a different process, but the main idea is to point at a known star, you may have to put some additional information and then your computer will help you get a location on other stars or objects in the sky that you didn’t see. Of course, it would be a good idea to have some initial knowledge and the star you are pointing at and the stars surrounding it, just to make sure that your instrument is giving you the proper information.

Tip #12 – Dress for the Occasion

You should remember that stargazing is a night activity; this means that it is probably going to be cooler than the daytime. This is why being prepared for a cooler weather is best to do, even if you live in a warm country. Dress warmly, consider bringing an extra sweatshirt (if you live in warmer areas) or even get a thermostat with warm hot chocolate! You wouldn’t want a little chill to get in the way of your enjoyment!

Tip #13 – Have an Observation Plan

When you are starting a new activity, it is a good idea to have a plan. This comes handy to be able to have an easier and efficient stargazing night. Consider having an observation plan. Choose some objects that can be seen from your location and during the time you want to go, and set your self the goal to find them! There are many websites and magazines that can tell you objects that can be visible at night during specific times of year, or any time of the year and from which areas!

Tip # 14- Keep Your Expectations at a Reality Level

We all see the wonderful images in magazines, books or websites that are “seen through a telescope” and want to capture those images ourselves. Unfortunately, the pictures you see in magazines or books are seen through very large observatory telescopes and are captured through a lens of a camera. In reality, you will be able to see similar images but they will be much smaller, less amazing and less detailed because the telescope that you will be using is going to be much smaller and cannot be expected to produce the same quality images as the large observatory telescope. Also, a human eye cannot capture the same view the lens of a camera or the programs on the computer does to enhance pictures. A reality though, is astronomy can be a beautiful escape to a world unknown by many. It is personal and can be viewed by the eyes of many, but have different views all at the same time. The universe is extraordinary and knowing your way around the night’s sky is a beautiful way to connect, explore and understand the world around us.